Alcovy outlasts Harlem 15-12 to advance

COVINGTON - After a combined 27 runs and hits, Alcovy's baseball team outlasted Harlem 15-12 to win the deciding game of its first round Class AAAA playoff Saturday at Tiger Field.

The trip to the Class AAAA playoffs, plus a win, is the first for Alcovy in its three year history.

"It still hasn't sunk in," said first-year head coach Casey Bates. "I'll tell you one thing though, this is not good for my blood pressure."

The game had six lead changes with at least one run scored by someone in every full inning played.

Not only did the Tigers see their first playoff series win, they also saw several things which are not conventional.

Taylor Jackson, who started the game and was taken out in the fourth inning, ended up coming back in the final inning to get the save.

Another unusual situation was bringing Beau Thomas after pitching in Game 2 on Friday.

"You tend to do whatever you have to in a three-game series. It wasn't bad for Taylor because he stayed loose throwing in between innings. I was more worried about Beau," Bates said. "He threw 60-some pitches (Friday) and he said his arm wasn't hurting. "

Harlem started the game taking a 1-0 lead after Patrick Gamblin rocketed the ball out of the park. It turned out to be his last hit of the game as he walked in three of his last four at bats.

"I told him after the game that I had been coaching for 10 years and he has got one of the top three hitters I've ever seen," Bates said. "It wouldn't surprise me to see him in the pros."

Ross Roberts tied the game with a solo blast of his own in the bottom of the first before the Tigers took a 3-1 lead when Michael Aventurato hit a ground-rule double to plate two runners.

After the Bulldogs closed the gap in the third, Alcovy scored five runs in the home half of the third with four coming off a Cody Bala grand slam.

Harlem tied the game at 8-8 in the fourth inning but freshman Bowen Braswell gave Alcovy another two-run cushion with a base-clearing single.

Braswell finished the game going 4-for-4 with four RBIs.

"In the last three games with bases loaded he had one hit," Bates said. "But he got the hits when he needed them the most. He's a raw athlete and does a good job every time he plays."

The Bulldogs tied the game in the fifth inning before taking a two-run lead in the sixth.

However, the Tigers were not about to be showed up in their home field.

In the bottom of the sixth, Braswell tied the game at 12-12 with a two-run dinger before Bala scored on a Thomas hit and a Roberts double plated Aventurato and Thomas to make it 15-12.

After errors put runners on base for Harlem in the top of the seventh, Jackson came in and got Gamblin to pop out, had a strike out and forced Zach Morris to hit a grounder to third base for the force out and the win.

Alcovy had 14 hits in its win with multiple hits coming from Roberts, Jackson and Bala.

"I'll bet that we're one of the few teams left in the state playoffs that has pitchers that throw under 85 (miles per hour)." Bates said. "But we have confidence and we're hitting. Hitting is contagious."